Adopt streamlining plan

File/AP Glenn McConnell

Glenn McConnell had a heavy legislative agenda for government reform this year that went largely by the board as he unexpectedly left the Senate to become the state’s lieutenant governor. Those bills would have limited spending growth and provided reserve funds to curtail the state’s budgetary cycle of feast or famine.

But one important bill — to create a streamlining commission — did get Senate approval. The House should endorse the proposal before the session’s end and put the commission to work.

The bill recognizes that many state agencies and programs were created decades ago and need a review of their operations to determine if they are still “relevant and cost efficient.”

The panel could save the state millions by eliminating government waste and duplication, and by determining which services could be better provided by the private sector. And that’s not merely wishful thinking.

Lousiana’s streamlining commission recommended 238 proposals for cost savings in 2009, as the state was faced with a massive budget shortfall. Potential savings from those recommendations would supposedly have met the commission’s goal of $800 million, though many were not implemented.

The commission’s work, incidentally, cost the state about $20,000 in per diem expenses its first year. South Carolina’s commission would be paid accordingly.

“It asks the questions: Why are we doing what we are doing? Is there a better way?” Mr. McConnell explains. It would determine, for example, whether agency mergers like that proposed for the Department of Corrections and the state’s probation and parole services are workable, cost-saving solutions.

The seven-member commission would be composed of legislative and gubernatorial appointees, and would be tasked with making a recommendation by the end of the year. Its cost-cutting ideas would get legislative consideration the following year.

Then-Sen. McConnell began working for the bill in 2010, after the results of the Louisiana experiment became known. “We’ve come too far to let that bill die,” he said.

Lt. Gov. McConnell had a long and illustrious career in the Senate, serving since 1981. Establishing the streamlining commission would be a fitting recognition of Mr. McConnell’s legislative contributions to the state and its taxpayers.

It could pave the way for significant reforms in state government — and could do so in the near term.